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Some early thoughts on iPhone X

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 06, 2017

I got an iPhone X on Friday and have been using it all weekend. Here are some of my initial thoughts about it, some of which will likely change after more use and reflection. As an hors d’oeuvre, Apple’s guided tour of iPhone X’s new features and capabilities:

In some ways, the setup process has been streamlined. Soon after turning on the iPhone X, it asked to use my nearby iPhone 7 to transfer its settings. The verification step for this used a cool swirling blue pattern on the X that I had to view with my old phone’s camera…the iTunes visualizer is finally coming in handy.

In other ways, the setup process could still use some work. Anticipating afternoon delivery of the X, I’d backed up my iPhone 7 that morning. When it came time to set up the X using that backup, it failed…iTunes said the backup was not compatible. It didn’t specify why but I had a hunch: my 7 had iOS 11.1 installed but the X had an earlier version installed. I upgraded the X and the backup worked. Less savvy users are going to be completely lost here and Apple should fix it.

The X is slightly thicker and heavier than the 7. With the larger screen area, the iPhone is no longer a one-handed device for me in many situations. This might be a dealbreaker for me.

Haven’t used the “wireless” charging yet. Just added this $25 charging pad to my shopping cart though, so I’ll get to try it out in a couple of days.

Animoji is the “Ewoks in Return of the Jedi” feature of the iPhone X. After the novelty wears off, approximately no one will use it.

I don’t like the notch. It looks idiotic. I’ll probably get used to it. I don’t care for the display’s rounded corners either. If you look at the apps that have been updated for the X, many of them don’t make use of the bottom 1/4” of the display because of the rounded corners. I feel like there’s an optical dissonance happening where I see the edge-to-edge display and think, “wow, massive display” but really the bottom slice of the screen and the two weird bunny ears at the top are not actually that useful. (Pls don’t email me about the utility of the bunny ears for the time, network, & battery display and the tradeoffs involving the camera placement, etc. “You’ve gotta put those somewhere!” I am aware.) Call me old-fashioned, but I want all my screens to be rectangles with square corners.

Face ID works great for me. I had a week of stubble on my face for the initial scan and it still worked after I shaved. It worked with glasses on. (My Ray-Ban sunglasses: no.) It worked with a baseball cap on. It worked in the dark…like a really dark room. It worked in a dark room with my glasses on. It worked with my head rested on my hand with pretty much half my face covered (this one surprised me when I realized what had just happened).

Thank god the home button is gone. So far, Face ID + swiping up is a superior interaction 99% of the time. It’s quicker and you don’t have to think about it. App switching is super simple now…just swipe left/right on the bottom of the screen. Relearning the new Home-less Siri, screenshot, and power-off interactions isn’t that hard.

A note on Face ID security, from Apple’s Face ID Security Guide:

The probability that a random person the population could look at your iPhone X and unlock it using Face ID is approximately 1 in 1,000,000 (versus 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID).

I hadn’t read about the 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID…that seems really high.

The TrueDepth camera is fun for taking new kinds of selfies. (I wonder…can someone take that video and make an animatronic face that can be used to break into my phone?)

Everything on this phone happens instantly…or somehow faster than instantly. It would be fun to use the first iPhone (which seemed really fast at the time) just to compare how blazing this this really is. And I wonder…will the X feel as slow in 10 years as that first phone feels today? It doesn’t seem as though it could get much faster…

The OLED screen is beautiful. I mainly use my phone to read Twitter and my email, so I’m not sure I need this beautiful new screen, but damn your tweets look good!

The camera quality remains the key advantage of the iPhone…they’re just so far ahead of everyone else here.

Update: The reviewers at DxOMark disagree with me on the camera quality. They place the Google Pixel 2 ahead of the iPhone X for image quality and a few other Android phones aren’t far behind.